[NABS-L] A technology recommendation for all of you

Cricket X. Bidleman cricketbidleman at gmail.com
Sun Jul 29 02:11:55 UTC 2018


Hi Connor,

I agree that having effective independence and advocacy skills is
essential, and I would never say otherwise. I also want to point out
that to some extent, AIRA agents are trained to allow each blind
person to be independent. They do not tell you when to cross a street,
and they cannot help you do so. They can tell you what they see, but
they can't baby you in terms of actually doing things for you that you
should be able to do yourself. It already takes some degree of
independence to be able to use it most effectively. I am extremely
fluent in Braille but sometimes things aren't available in a timely
manner. I have very good travel skills, but sometimes the bus drives
right past me, or detours have to be made, or Uber drivers decide they
don't feel like picking up a blind person. I am getting increasingly
better at cooking, but it's still hard to know exactly when pastries
get golden brown, or when onions that are sautéing become translucent.
There's really no way around looking through a microscope without
assistance and if everyone else is busy, AIRA can help in a pinch. I
would never substitute AIRA for independence skills, and I would argue
that it can't replace them at all. AIRA is what you make of it, just
like most things. If you expect them to baby you and let them do so,
then that's on you and not them. I know that I personally do not do
so, and I never will. I would also never recommend AIRA specifically
to someone who doesn't have adequate independence skills because once
again, it's not a substitute. Thanks.

Best,
Cricket x. Bidleman (she/her/hers)
Stanford University | Class of 2021

On 7/28/18, Roanna Bacchus via NABS-L <nabs-l at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Hi Connor thanks for your message. I believe that all blind students should
> learn the nonvisual skills that will allow them to succeed in life. This is
> why I am currently in the Independent Living Skills program at the Rehab
> Center For The Blind here in Daytona, Beach, Florida. I survived my first
> week of the program. Last night I washed and dried my first load of laundry.
>
> On Jul 28, 2018 7:52 PM, Connor Mullin via NABS-L <nabs-l at nfbnet.org> wrote:
>>
>> Hi Cricket,
>>
>> Thank you for your thoughtful response. You are absolutely right that you
>> have the right to say what did or did not apply to your situation.
>> However, you also decided to post it in a public forum, in essence
>> presenting it to be read, evaluated, and potentially discussed. I have no
>> intention to hurt your feelings, but I do feel the need to present a
>> perspective on AIRA that I feel is not getting enough attention.
>>
>> You ask why we shouldn't use a service that improves our efficiency if it
>> is available, and I would say that it depends. Is it more efficient to
>> just have an experienced reader read for us all of our school materials,
>> for example, or is it more efficient to learn braille? The answer changes
>> whether you are thinking long or short term.
>>
>> My point being that encouraging the use of AIRA for travel to everyone at
>> large regardless of skill level sends the message, either intentional or
>> unintentional, that relying on a visual aid is easier and more desirable
>> than, say, learning the nonvisual skills necessary to get effective
>> directions and get away from the "over there's" that I agree are given to
>> us all too often.
>>
>> Connor
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: NABS-L <nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Cricket X. Bidleman
>> via NABS-L
>> Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2018 5:57 PM
>> To: National Association of Blind Students mailing list
>> <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
>> Cc: Cricket X. Bidleman <cricketbidleman at gmail.com>
>> Subject: Re: [NABS-L] A technology recommendation for all of you
>>
>> Hi Connor,
>>
>> First of all, I welcome your perspective. I would, however, encourage you
>> to not make assumptions as to what I am and am not willing to do.
>> I mainly said what I did to illustrate the point that this technology is
>> helpful in many different areas of life. I never said that I am not
>> willing to self-advocate and I am, very much so, and I do. I would also
>> encourage others to self-advocate, but in situations where self-advocacy
>> didn't happen AIRA can be very helpful. That situation had aspects to it
>> that I did not feel the need to detail on email. No one should feel the
>> need to give every detail of everything on a public listserv. The point is
>> that it's useful during travel, and I think that point is muddled a bit by
>> this discussion. I would appreciate if we could drop this discussion here,
>> in order to preserve the integrity of what I was trying to say. Thanks.
>>
>> I also want to point out that there's an amazing amount of misinformation
>> you can get by asking random people for directions.
>> Many people don’t know their left from their right, including RA's.
>> Some people will tell you that something is “that way” or “over there”,
>> and you can end up more confused than when you started.
>>
>> As blind people, our time is just as valuable as anyone else’s, and if
>> someone trained in the information blind people need so they can navigate
>> efficiently is available any time it’s required, why not use a service
>> that will improve our efficiency. Also, if on the first day of campus
>> there are a lot of confused people around asking questions, being blind
>> and having access to trained assistance actually gives us a competitive
>> advantage. Keep that in mind.
>>
>> Again, I appreciate the meat of what you're trying to say and I think
>> that's important to consider as we continue into higher education. I don't
>> think, however, that what you're trying to say applies to my situation and
>> since I was the one in my situation, so I do have the right to say that.
>> Also, please be aware that the way you presented your point was one that I
>> could take very personally and though I'm choosing not to, I would also
>> encourage you to be cognizant f that so as to offend as few people as
>> possible. Thanks.
>>
>> Best,
>> Cricket X. Bidleman (she/her/hers)
>> Stanford University | Class of 2021
>>
>> On 7/28/18, Roger Newell via NABS-L <nabs-l at nfbnet.org> wrote:
>> > I don't see the distinction between asking an RA for assistance or
>> > using Aira. Visual assistance was required, so why not use a perfectly
>> > good service?
>> >
>> > On 7/29/18, Connor Mullin via NABS-L <nabs-l at nfbnet.org> wrote:
>> >> Hi Cricket,
>> >>
>> >> Thank you for sharing your thoughts on AIRA. As a recipient of a NFB
>> >> scholarship, I will also enjoy nine months of minutes. However, I
>> >> would like to reflect on your story at Stanford.
>> >> I am anticipating using AIRA for tasks that are best solved by
>> >> self-directing visual aids, such as reading mail, reading library
>> >> books for research projects, and identifying the colors of clothing
>> >> to then label them tactilely. Yet, while I don't think relying on
>> >> AIRA for travel assistance is some kind of unforgivable sin, I would
>> >> caution people from generally recommending using AIRA in the way that
>> >> you did at your first day at Stanford. That is, you were hesitant to
>> >> approach an RA for directions, even though you knew they would be the
>> >> most oriented, because you felt guilty about bothering them. And I
>> >> think that is an important hurdle for everyone to reflect on,
>> >> recognizing that fears of approaching people for directions and
>> >> highlighting your blindness is something that should not be passed
>> >> over when talking about being an independent blind person.
>> >> Now, I'm not saying you never have, before or after that day,
>> >> overcome such hesitations, nor am I saying that I have never psyched
>> >> myself out of asking authority figures for directions. Rather, I'm
>> >> simply saying that we should be careful not to inadvertently sell the
>> >> benefits of AIRA as an alternative to building peoples' advocacy and
>> >> nonvisual skills.
>> >> Thank you once again for your thoughts.
>> >>
>> >> Connor
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> -----Original Message-----
>> >> From: NABS-L <nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Gary Wunder via
>> >> NABS-L
>> >> Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2018 10:28 AM
>> >> To: 'National Association of Blind Students mailing list'
>> >> <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
>> >> Cc: Gary Wunder <garywunder at me.com>
>> >> Subject: Re: [NABS-L] A technology recommendation for all of you
>> >>
>> >> What an interesting story. Thanks.
>> >>
>> >> -----Original Message-----
>> >> From: NABS-L [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Cricket X.
>> >> Bidleman via NABS-L
>> >> Sent: Monday, July 23, 2018 12:07 AM
>> >> To: National Association of Blind Students mailing list
>> >> Cc: Cricket X. Bidleman
>> >> Subject: [NABS-L] A technology recommendation for all of you
>> >>
>> >> Hi all,
>> >>
>> >> This is long. Please read it anyway. As of last July, I received the
>> >> AIRA Back-to-School award. Basically, this gave me free minutes on
>> >> AIRA for nine months, the last of which recently ended. (Endless
>> >> thanks to Kathryn Webster for being instrumental in that process.)
>> >> I'll admit I was a little skeptical because first of all, I didn't
>> >> think I'd use it. I also knew they had basically repurposed Google
>> >> Glass, and Google Glass in its original form was kind of a floppy
>> >> failure... And then some.
>> >>
>> >> So Cricket, where's that "recommendation" you promised us? Well, here
>> >> it is.
>> >> I can say, through my own abundant use of the software in my first
>> >> year of college, that I sincerely feel that AIRA is revolutionizing
>> >> instant access to all areas of life. Accessibility is a huge issue
>> >> for us as blind students and though it's slowly being worked on in
>> >> general, sometimes it's necessary to have instant access to things.
>> >> I'd call it "accessibility on demand"
>> >> or
>> >> something like that. One particular instance comes to mind.
>> >>
>> >> I was incredibly overwhelmed. It was my first day at Stanford,
>> >> September
>> >> 19
>> >> of last year. My parents had just left me in a dorm full of people I
>> >> didn't know, in a place I'd never been to. I was walking around,
>> >> trying not to bump into things, when I mentally slapped myself for
>> >> forgetting that I had an a capella audition, and then another one,
>> >> and then a choir audition, and then a meeting with my pre-major
>> >> advisor. I really didn't want to be the problem child constantly
>> >> asking for help from the RA's who, quite frankly, had more than
>> >> enough disoriented freshmen to deal with. So, because I'm so
>> >> brilliant, I walked out of my dorm with my cane, wearing a black
>> >> dress and high heels, into 90 degree weather. I made it all the way
>> >> down the hill by my dorm and then I had to mentally slap myself again
>> >> because I realized something...
>> >> I
>> >> didn't know the campus at all. I walked around a bit, and then got
>> >> turned around, and then got lost, and then got even more lost. There
>> >> were freshmen everywhere, but they were all lost too, and a bunch of
>> >> them gave me atrociously  wrong directions. I called AIRA and in five
>> >> minutes, they had me straightened out and going in the right
>> >> direction. Turned out I was on the opposite side of campus from where
>> >> I was supposed to be. Thanks, all you disoriented freshmen...
>> >>
>> >> Let me tell you something about Stanford campus. you know how like
>> >> every sane person designing a college campus makes them arranged like
>> >> city blocks?
>> >> There are clear streets, buildings are arranged in grid patterns,
>> >> they're in numerical order... Stanford's designer must have been
>> >> crazy, because this campus is not like that at all. There are twists
>> >> and turns everywhere and though there are a couple of main streets
>> >> here and there, most of the campus isn't even nearly accessible by
>> >> car, much less by some lost blind student.
>> >> Google Maps doesn't really help, so my AIRA agent (Emma) was
>> >> cross-referencing three different maps while trying to keep an eye on
>> >> me so I wouldn't step in a fountain. Yes, that is a possibility here.
>> >> People actually jump in fountains for fun. Emma is phenomenal, and
>> >> managed to get me to my audition on time. Part of that was because,
>> >> by some happy coincidence, I'd left three hours early, but even so I
>> >> was rushing at the end. At least I made it, sore feet and all.
>> >>
>> >> Anyway since then, I've had many experiences with AIRA, and all of
>> >> them have ended up positive. One time I was chasing down a Uber
>> >> because it wanted to ditch me... One time I was cramming for a test
>> >> with a textbook that I hadn't gotten in Braille on time since it was
>> >> my first quarter here. One time an agent was reading Plato's Republic
>> >> to me when I may or may not have taken a nap, and they may or may not
>> >> have had to wake me up. They were really nice about it though. You
>> >> know these people are awesome when they can even pronounce pars
>> >> opercularis properly. I can't even do that. (That's an essential part
>> >> of the brain involved in language processing by the way.) And once
>> >> they were able to describe, in extreme detail, a brain diagram I was
>> >> studying for psychology. I later got the Braille diagram, and it was
>> >> nowhere near as detailed as the AIRA agent's description.
>> >>
>> >> So my point is, please do yourself a huge favor and get AIRA. You can
>> >> get funding for it from the Department of Rehab. Or scholarship money
>> >> can go toward it, or you can apply for their scholarships. I promise
>> >> you it will be integral as you go through education and life in
>> >> general. If my word isn't enough, and even if it is, I fully
>> >> encourage you to check out this blog post by Jonathan Mosen. He's a
>> >> technology consultant who has way more experience than me. He's
>> >> worked with Humanware and Freedom Scientific, and for many years has
>> >> run his own consulting company. He designs websites, travels a lot,
>> >> runs several podcasts and a radio station, writes books, and is
>> >> pretty much the kind of person many of us aspire to emulate in terms
>> >> of success.
>> >> He
>> >> uses AIRA and in this post, talks about how powerfully this
>> >> innovative solution has impacted his life. Please give it a read--I
>> >> promise it will change your outlook. https://mosen.org/aira/
>> >>
>> >> Best,
>> >> Cricket X. Bidleman (she/her/hers)
>> >> Stanford University | Class of 2021
>> >>
>> >> P.S. If you have Emma as your AIRA agent, tell her I said hello. :)
>> >>
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